Also speculates on Rob Gronkowski's role moving forward

BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan record 17 total tackles on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, which is a bad number for a cornerback as Ryan struggled in coverage all day. The entire Patriots defense had a bad day against the Bills and Ryan has appeared to have his share of struggles covering receivers in all four games so far in 2016.

But ask Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald and he will tell you Ryan hasn’t been nearly as bad as you think.

Howe joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich Tuesday morning to talk about the return of Tom Brady, the plans for him and Rob Gronkowski going forward, and Ryan’s struggles on defense. The numbers being put up against the Patriots cornerback aren’t pretty, but Howe believes not only that Ryan hasn’t been as bad as you think but that the team might even look to keep the impending free agent around beyond this season.

“The numbers haven’t been terrific, but he’s also been beaten on some fantastic plays by [Texans wideout] DeAndre Hopkins and [Cardinals receiver] Larry Fitzgerald,” said Howe. “The timing wasn’t great because Logan Ryan did not play well on Sunday, but I wrote a glowing story about him last week on how I think he’s a guy that we probably shouldn’t overlook the Patriots re-signing this coming offseason.

“In the case of so far this season, he’s taken Fitzgerald and he’s taken DeAndre Hopkins. Yeah, Fitzgerald and Hopkins had their moments against Logan Ryan, but you look at the two touchdowns Fitzgerald had, how could Logan Ryan have conceivably played those two plays any better? DeAndre Hopkins made a one-handed catch against Logan Ryan … The numbers don’t look great, but you have to consider the level of the competition.”

Tom Brady throws passes at a Brookline private school. (Photo credit: Susie Whelan Horan)

Tom Brady throws passes at a Brookline private school. (Photo credit: Susie Whelan Horan)

As for Brady’s return, it seems that his teammates are going out of their way to downplay it and pretend they haven’t seen the quarterback. Howe isn’t buying it and believes they’re just keeping outside noise to a minimum.

“I’m guessing they all saw [Brady] and they might have been being a little bit facetious when they were talking about not seeing him,” said Howe. “It’s hard to miss the quarterback when he comes back from a month away. … They’re all in the same meeting rooms. He’s not that hard to find. The place isn’t that big.

“I mean yeah, they were all excited to have him back. I just wouldn’t be surprised if it was a matter of them hearing from Belichick, ‘Hey, you guys never saw the guy … If you don’t say that you saw him, if you say nothing, then the questions basically stop.”

As for Gronkowski, the Patriots tight end has been used mostly as a blocker in his first two games back. Howe doesn’t see any signs that Gronk is being slowed by his hamstring or any other lingering injuries and expects him to look more like the explosive playmaker Patriots fans are expecting in the coming weeks, especially now that Brady is back.

“I think [Gronk’s] looked alright when he’s been on passing routes. I haven’t noticed a single issue with his blocking. In whatever capacity that they’re using him he’s having success with it,” said Howe. “I’m surprised that he hasn’t put up bigger numbers, but then again, Jacoby Brissett … hasn’t really had any success with Gronk or Edelman or Hogan or Amendola, really.

“I think the optimistic way to look at this is they’re just trying to get him full go for when Tom Brady’s back and I wouldn’t be surprised if Brady tries to force-feed him the ball a few times early just to get him going.”

Howe also spoke on how long Gronk could last in the league playing at his current level with his violent playing style. Listen to the full podcast below:


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